— The Erimtan Angle —

As I wrote last year, the “Cold War is well and truly over, but a new kind of ideological contest is being waged between the West (the US and its allies) and today’s up-and-coming superpowers, Russia and China. This New Cold War once again appears to divide the world into two opposing camps. In one corner the US is furiously attempting to cling to its preeminent role in global affairs (it is only six years since Professor Michael Mandelbaum argued for America acting as the world’s government in his polemic The Case for Goliath). In the other, China is casually laying the groundwork for its coming greatness and Russia is securing its immediate neighborhood (or its “near abroad” if you will). The current crisis in the Ukraine is but the latest battleground in this contest, following Syria and Libya. The successful elimination of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime in Libya led directly to the as-yet inconclusive armed attempt to remove Bashar al-Assad from Damascus. This link between Libya’s “assisted rebellion” and Syria’s “staged insurrection” was made abundantly clear by means of the influx of Libyan arms and fighters into Assad’s homeland”.[1]  In fact, I had already written about a New Cold War as long ago as 2011, when I posited that the so-called “Arab Awakening” had laid the groundwork for a “the beginning of a New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia”.[2]  While last year, I reasoned that the “New Cold War between the West and Russia has now moved to Ukraine, where the US, operating behind-the-scenes, has successfully escalated a crisis, functioning as a veritable proxy-conflict, that seems to have been motivated by NATO’s desire to expand into Ukraine via the EU”.[3]

But now, the American-German freelance journalist, historian and economic researcher William Engdahl has published a piece that argues persuasively that the New Cold War is really nothing but the continuation of the Cold War of yesteryear. Engdahl relates how President Putin revealed as much during a recent television event. The main Russian national TV station, Rossiya 1 aired a documentary “on the events of the recent period including the annexation of Crimea”, featuring Putin himself, on 26 April. Engdahl explains as follows: in the documentary “Putin stated bluntly that in his view the West would only be content in having a Russia weak, suffering and begging from the West, something clearly the Russian character is not disposed to. Then a short way into his remarks, the Russian President stated for the first time publicly something that Russian intelligence has known for almost two decades but kept silent until now, most probably in hopes of an era of better normalized Russia-US relations. Putin stated that the terror in Chechnya and in the Russian Caucasus in the early 1990’s was actively backed by the CIA and western Intelligence services to deliberately weaken Russia. He noted that the Russian FSB foreign intelligence had documentation of the US covert role without giving details. What Putin, an intelligence professional of the highest order, only hinted at in his remarks, I have documented in detail from non-Russian sources. The report has enormous implications to reveal to the world the long-standing hidden agenda of influential circles in Washington to destroy Russia as a functioning sovereign state, an agenda which includes the neo-nazi coup d’etat in Ukraine and severe financial sanction warfare against Moscow”.[4]

Engdahl goes on quoting his own book Amerikas Heiliger Krieg (to be published in English shortly as The Lost Hegemon): “Not long after the CIA and Saudi Intelligence-financed Mujahideen had devastated Afghanistan at the end of the 1980’s, forcing the exit of the Soviet Army in 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself some months later, the CIA began to look at possible places in the collapsing Soviet Union where their trained “Afghan Arabs” could be redeployed to further destabilize Russian influence over the post-Soviet Eurasian space. They were called Afghan Arabs because they had been recruited from ultraconservative Wahhabite Sunni Muslims from Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and elsewhere in the Arab world where the ultra-strict Wahhabite Islam was practiced. They were brought to Afghanistan in the early 1980’s by a Saudi CIA recruit who had been sent to Afghanistan named Osama bin Laden. With the former Soviet Union in total chaos and disarray, George H.W. Bush’s Administration decided to “kick ‘em when they’re down,” a sad error. Washington redeployed their Afghan veteran terrorists to bring chaos and destabilize all of Central Asia, even into the Russian Federation itself, then in a deep and traumatic crisis during the economic collapse of the Yeltsin era. In the early 1990s, Dick Cheney’s company, Halliburton, had surveyed the offshore oil potentials of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and the entire Caspian Sea Basin. They estimated the region to be “another Saudi Arabia” worth several trillion dollars on today’s market. The US and UK were determined to keep that oil bonanza from Russian control by all means. The first target of Washington was to stage a coup in Azerbaijan against elected president Abulfaz Elchibey to install a President more friendly to a US-controlled Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, “the world’s most political pipeline,” bringing Baku oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey and the Mediterranean”.[5]

Engdahl elaborates as follows: “From the mid-1990s, bin Laden paid Chechen guerrilla leaders Shamil Basayev and Omar ibn al-Khattab the handsome sum of several million dollars per month, a King’s fortune in economically desolate Chechnya in the 1990s, enabling them to sideline the moderate Chechen majority. US intelligence remained deeply involved in the Chechen conflict until the end of the 1990s. According to Yossef Bodansky, then Director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Washington was actively involved in ‘yet another anti-Russian jihad, seeking to support and empower the most virulent anti-Western Islamist forces’. Bodansky revealed the entire CIA Caucasus strategy in detail in his report, stating that US Government officials participated in, ‘a formal meeting in Azerbaijan in December 1999 in which specific programs for the training and equipping of Mujahideen from the Caucasus, Central/South Asia and the Arab world were discussed and agreed upon, culminating in Washington’s tacit encouragement of both Muslim allies (mainly Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and US ‘private security companies’. . . to assist the Chechens and their Islamist allies to surge in the spring of 2000 and sustain the ensuing Jihad for a long time . . . Islamist Jihad in the Caucasus as a way to deprive Russia of a viable pipeline route through spiraling violence and terrorism’. The most intense phase of the Chechen wars wound down in 2000 only after heavy Russian military action defeated the Islamists. It was a pyrrhic victory, costing a massive toll in human life and destruction of entire cities. The exact death toll from the CIA-instigated Chechen conflict is unknown. Unofficial estimates ranged from 25,000 to 50,000 dead or missing, mostly civilians. Russian casualties were near 11,000 according to the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers”.[6]

Shamil Basayev “was a key part of the CIA’s Global Jihad. In 1992, he met Saudi terrorist Ibn al-Khattag in Azerbaijan. From Azerbaijan, Ibn al-Khattab brought Basayev to Afghanistan to meet al-Khattab’s ally, fellow-Saudi Osama bin Laden. Ibn al-Khattab’s role was to recruit Chechen Muslims willing to wage Jihad against Russian forces in Chechnya on behalf of the covert CIA strategy of destabilizing post-Soviet Russia and securing British-US control over Caspian energy. Once back in Chechnya, Basayev and al-Khattab created the International Islamic Brigade (IIB) with Saudi Intelligence money, approved by the CIA and coordinated through the liaison of Saudi Washington Ambassador and Bush family intimate Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Bandar, Saudi Washington Ambassador for more than two decades, was so intimate with the Bush family that George W. Bush referred to the playboy Saudi Ambassador as “Bandar Bush,” a kind of honorary family member. Basayev and al-Khattab imported fighters from the Saudi fanatical Wahhabite strain of Sunni Islam into Chechnya. Ibn al-Khattab commanded what were called the “Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya,” his own private army of Arabs, Turks, and other foreign fighters. He was also commissioned to set up paramilitary training camps in the Caucasus Mountains of Chechnya that trained Chechens and Muslims from the North Caucasian Russian republics and from Central Asia. The Saudi and CIA-financed Islamic International Brigade was responsible not only for terror in Chechnya. They carried out the October 2002 Moscow Dubrovka Theatre hostage seizure and the gruesome September 2004 Beslan school massacre. In 2010, the UN Security Council published the following report on al-Khattab and Basayev’s International Islamic Brigade: ‘Islamic International Brigade (IIB) was listed on 4 March 2003. . . as being associated with Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden or the Taliban for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of” Al-Qaida. . . The Islamic International Brigade (IIB) was founded and led by Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (deceased) and is linked to the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM). . . and the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR). . . On the evening of 23 October 2002, members of IIB, RSRSBCM and SPIR operated jointly to seize over 800 hostages at Moscow’s Podshipnikov Zavod (Dubrovka) Theater. In October 1999, emissaries of Basayev and Al-Khattab traveled to Usama bin Laden’s home base in the Afghan province of Kandahar, where Bin Laden agreed to provide substantial military assistance and financial aid, including by making arrangements to send to Chechnya several hundred fighters to fight against Russian troops and perpetrate acts of terrorism. Later that year, Bin Laden sent substantial amounts of money to Basayev, Movsar Barayev (leader of SPIR) and Al-Khattab, which was to be used exclusively for training gunmen, recruiting mercenaries and buying ammunition'”.[7]  Next, Engdahl concludes in an acerbic fashion that the “Afghan-Caucasus Al Qaeda ‘terrorist railway’, financed by Saudi intelligence, had two goals. One was a Saudi goal to spread fanatical Wahhabite Jihad into the Central Asian region of the former Soviet Union. The second was the CIA’s agenda of destabilizing a then-collapsing post-Soviet Russian Federation”.[8]

As a post-script indicating that the Jihad in Afghanistan has long shadows that can still be seen today, I would now like to quote the Fast Company’s reporter Neal Ungerleider on “Chechnya’s Instagram Insurgency”. A few weeks ago, Ungerleider posited that the “continuing anti-Russian insurgency in Chechnya briefly returned to American newspapers after the Boston Marathon bombings, thanks to the Tsarnaev brothers’ roots in the Caucasian Mountain region, but it’s nothing new. Over the past decade, a rebellion against Russian rule has taken on an increasingly jihadist cast as local rebels such as the Caucasus Emirate forged alliances with international militant Islamist forces. Pictures of Chechnyan fighters and casualties have become an unexpected hot currency on Instagram’s jihadist underground, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers eagerly swap pictures and propaganda. In fact, Anti-Russian jihadist rebels in Chechnya and neighboring regions, along with Islamist sympathizers worldwide, have increasingly turned to Instagram to disseminate propaganda and martyr photographs. A cursory search of the photo-sharing service’s #jihad tag found numerous graphics which appeared to be of Chechen or neighboring Dagestani origin; because Instagram does not normally share the national origin of users, it was impossible to confirm. However, captions to many photos found were written in Russian and other photos portrayed Chechen volunteers who died in the conflict in Syria. However, very few of these Chechnyan fighter pictures appear to be posted from Chechnya, judging from the extremely well-trafficked #chechnya hashtag and the Russian-language #Чечня́ hashtag, which are filled with innocuous food shots (Chechnyans apparently love sushi), self-portraits, landscapes, and the other usual Instagram fodder (albeit with more memorials to war victims and 19th century anti-Russian rebels than an American might expect to come across in their Instagram feed). Instead, Chechnyan rebel pictures are posted and traded like baseball cards among members of an underground jihadist subculture. Virtually no Instagram accounts exclusively feature Chechnyan rebel picture and propaganda; they are instead mixed-and-matched with content from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other troubled lands”.[9]

[1] C. Erimtan, “The New Cold War redux and its Islamic dimension” Op-Edge (22 May 2014). http://rt.com/op-edge/160772-new-cold-war-islamic/.

[2] C. Erimtan, “The Arab Awakening and the never-ending Cold War” Hürriyet Daily News (22 June 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=the-arab-awakening-and-the-never-ending-cold-war-2011-06-22.

[3] C. Erimtan, “The New Cold War redux and its Islamic dimension”.

[4] William Engdahl, “What if Putin is Telling the Truth?” NEO (15 May 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/05/15/what-if-putin-is-telling-the-truth/.

[5] William Engdahl, “What if Putin is Telling the Truth?”.

[6] William Engdahl, “What if Putin is Telling the Truth?”.

[7] William Engdahl, “What if Putin is Telling the Truth?”.

[8] William Engdahl, “What if Putin is Telling the Truth?”.

[9] Neal Ungerleider, “Virtual Jihad: Chechnya’s Instagram Insurgency” The Fast Company (14 May 2015). http://www.fastcompany.com/3009705/virtual-jihad-chechnyas-instagram-insurgency.

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